The chairman of Augusta National Golf Club has once again thrown down the gauntlet to the R&A and USGA, urging them to come to a “thoughtful solution” on golf’s distance debate “as soon as possible”.
In his customary pre-Masters press conference, Fred Ridley said that the game has reached an “important crossroads” as it relates to how far modern professionals are able to hit the ball.
Whilst acknowledging the proposed changes to the current rules and equipment standards – outlined by the governing bodies in February and currently under review – Ridley’s frustration with the pace of the Distance Insights Project was unmistakable.
"As I have stated in the past, each year, we look at every hole of our golf course," said Ridley. "Fortunately, we do have the ability to make any number of changes to protect the integrity of the course. At the same time, we hope that there will not come a day when The Masters, or any golf championship, will have to be played at 8,000 yards to achieve that objective.
"This is an important crossroads, so we will continue to urge the governing bodies, and all interested parties, to put forward thoughtful solutions as soon as possible."
This is by no means the first time that Ridley has publicly urged the R&A and USGA to take action on distance.
In 2019, discussing the potential lengthening of the 13th hole, the closing part of ‘Amen Corner’ which he described as “a sacred place in the world of golf”, Ridley said: “My preference is to see what the governing bodies decide is best for the game and then we will take appropriate action in response to that.”
A year earlier, during his first Masters press conference as club chairman, he described distance as "an issue that needs to be addressed.
For several years, it has been suggested the club could introduce its own ‘tournament ball’ for competitors to use. Whilst saying that he believes such a move would be “highly unlikely”, it was somewhat telling that Ridley stopped short of ruling it out altogether
“I would say it is absolutely a last resort,” he said but added that if no action is taken by the R&A and USGA, the club will "look at other ways" to protect the "design integrity" of the golf course.